It’s Fall and here comes the Plant Biomass -- leaves, twigs, tumbling grasses, and the last of the fluffy seedheads. Biomass is all the organic stuff your property makes and, in the PRFCT world, gets to keep…all for itself. Plant biomass provides habitat for insects and adds decomposing matter, which makes healthy soil, which feeds healthy plants, which makes more biomass. That’s the way of the food web loop.
We are all hearing about Leave the Leaves, so while we are figuring out how to do that, why not just do it all, and close the loop: save ALL your biomass? Imagine: No biomass sent to the landfill; no fertilizers, mulch, or compost bought in. Nothing your property makes is treated as garbage. Total harmony, perfect balance, major good for the planet, and for you.
Leaves alone can be a challenge to manage, and they degrade quickly, what about the longer lasting stuff: Twigs, branches, even whole trees; how to find a place for them? ARTFULLY!
Leaves: Chop (when dry!) with a mower and leave as many as possible on the lawn. Next batch can go into planting beds, chopped or not. All the rest – compost. Chopping does damage to insects tucked in for the winter, like Fireflies and Luna Moths, so please do keep that in mind.
Twigs: Make habitat piles as ephemeral art. Wrens and Thrushes especially like having such places to hide from predators and nasty weather.
Every place’s pile has its own personality. The bigger a garden, the more biomass it makes. The more habitat it hosts.
Branches: Get them chipped and use them for garden paths and for smothering difficult weeds.
Get inventive! Every fall, every fallen branch, every invasive shrub cut down, a new opportunity.
Trees: Log piles make great dividers and screens, plus habitat for native bees, chipmunks, and snakes. Yes, you really do need snakes, they eat voles.
Stumps: The heart of a Hügel, (the hill in HügelKulture) PRFCT Earth style. Place stumps and funky logs in a shallow hole. Cover with twigs, sod/soil, leaves, compost, whatever needs a place to decompose. Wet it all down well. Plant a cover crop, or finish with an imaginative use of biomass, like more twigs, or leaves. The stump, deep in the center of it all, emanates moisture and feeds the biome. Artful decomposition.
Meadow and Flower Bed Cuttings (late spring): Haystacks! So many wonderful ways to make them– old sticks can get used up inside…also handy for smothering weeds.
Surely you have heard about leaving the leaves by now. So, of course, we want to take you to the next level—leaving pretty much everything. Every seed head of every tree, shrub, grass and flowering plant is a potential food source or shelter for wildlife. Standing (and resting) vegetation protects the soil and all that lives on or in it. There is a lot of life going on that you can help to make it through the winter.
So please don’t mow that meadow, don’t chop plants down and remove them from the garden. Every cut is a wound, and a loss. Why not see it all differently—less work and, in your newly winter watchful eye, a place full of beauty, and life, and wonder.
For reasons both good and bad, the environment is so in fashion.
Earth Day is BIG.
Lots of causes, lots of requests. I am asking too. But, not for a donation; not to sign a petition; but for something not to do.
Please don’t spray your yard for ticks and mosquitos.
Why? Because there is no proof that it reduces tick borne diseases. (https://www.caryinstitute.org/science/tick-project) And because tick sprays (even the organic ones) kill much more than ticks: they kill butterflies, and bees and fireflies. They aren’t good for you, either (https://www.nytimes.com/2019)
What to do?
Spray yourself: You are the target, so put the spray where it is of max effect and minimum harm: on you and your clothing.
Check yourself: The most effective preventive measure of all. Property spray programs give people a false sense of security and they stop being vigilant. There is no way that blasting your garden with a pesticide can guarantee that you are never going to encounter a tick, but it sure will mess with the lives of your pollinators and birds.
Please take a moment this Earth Day think about it. If it is safer for you, your family, pets and the earth, why wouldn’t you spray yourself, not your yard? Choose a spray with picaridin, it’s not “organic” but it is least toxic and very effective. (EWG.org)
And, if you haven’t already, check out Two Thirds for The Birds www.234birds.org, and learn more beautiful actions you can take, for free, to help the health of the planet, you and your pets.
Tues May 4, Free Webinar: basic toxic free landscaping Edwina von Gal/Rodale Institute
Weds May 19 Presentation: Holly Merker, author of “Ornitherapy” and Edwina von Gal, PRFCT Earth Founder, hosted by Southampton Arts Center https://southamptonartscenter.z2systems.com/np/clients/southamptonartscenter/event.jsp?event=223
Why not take advantage of this at-home opportunity to get to know your property better -- to work on your relationship? Have you spent quality time with your place, looking and listening? Learning from it. Do you understand and embrace its needs? How do you decide what is best for it? All on your terms?
Go outside and take a good look at every square foot of your place, without judgement. What is going on? What is doing just fine, and what needs you? Appreciate all that is beautiful that happened all on its own.
You and your land have been living together; is it time you took a vow to be true to it? No cheating. A relationship based on mutual input, not domination.
What does that mean? This year’s PRFCT Tips will be your guide.
Step One: Review all the maintenance and fertilizer/pesticide treatments you or your professionals have been applying to your property. What are they? Why are they needed?
Check out their health and environmental effects here: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-gateway
Or email us with questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Go back outside. Is your property bursting, buzzing and chirping with life? Treasure it. Make that vow: I will do this place no harm. Practice.
Is Goldenrod aggravating your allergies? Nope, not likely. How do I know? Because it has bees! Goldenrod has sticky pollen that attracts and sticks to insects who then carry it around to do the pollination thing. Alternately, wind pollinated plants have light and airy pollen that spreads by air. The only way that Goldenrod pollen is going up your nose is if you stick your face in it. The real culprit is Ragweed, whose innocuous green blooms produce billions of delicate pollen particles that can travel invisibly through the air for miles, and make millions (of people) miserable. They open at the same time as Goldenrod's bright yellow, hightly visible flowers. So guess who gets the blame?
There are close to 100 native species of Goldenrod (Solidago), some of them rather aggressive, but many are well worth considering for your garden. We love the one called “Fireworks”. And, of course, they are all great for bees, and hundreds of other beneficiall insects as well. Go Goldenrod!
And, just to be fair, Ragweed (Ambrosia) is a native plant too. It provides food for over 400 different insects.
A Sad note: I took these photos recently on a field trip in Ohio. There were farm fields all around. There was not a bee to be found.